The jewel-like stone that had shone like a miniature sun now burned as low as simmering coals, and it was fading fast.
"The Melancholy Soul wanes with each passing moment. Make haste, mongrel!"
"Don't push me, Alastor," warned Dante, his mad dash carrying him over the following flight of steps. Meanwhile, a trio of devils harried his every step. Ethereal by nature, their kind had adopted a sinister, more terrible form than their lesser cousins, the Sin Scissors. Like the Scissors, only their highly decorated masks and fearsome weapons were tangible, though that didn't stop them from passing through walls. Everything else - from their billowing black cloaks, to their cruelly clawed hands - were as substantial as air. They were the takers of living souls, false grim reapers.
Only the pressing sense of urgency kept Dante from lashing out at the Sins. He couldn't spare a moment to blow them away as they alternatively slipped in and out of the very stone walls, attacking with massive scythes able to boomerang on a dime back toward him. To make matters worse, his mind wasn't focused. He couldn't help but think of the recent past, and what it might mean, if anything. The fight with the demon shadow had eaten more time than he would have liked, and now the Soul might fizzle out entirely. The Soul had shown him a brief vision of where it wished to go, that going there was paramount. In the staircase tower was a sealed door at the bottom level, a door with a lion's face, three-eyed and roaring, bearing an inscription, something about a "guiding soul".... It was a stretch, even with the vision, but he reasoned he had little else to go on, so...what the hell, right? Besides, he had a good feeling about this. The devil hunter's thoughts skewed abruptly to the battle with the devil knight -
He had me, but something happened....something....having to do with my pendant...?
- And a sin rushed him with a shrieking battle cry, blasting away the distracting reverie, and nearly shaking away his guard in sudden fright. Materializing from the wall ahead of him, Dante's senses only registered the faux spirit's scream, the ivory color of its mask, the evil dark of its eyes, and the flash of a descending blade. With the dimming stone in his left, and Ivory in his right, Dante could not defend with Alastor. Nor could he shoot back in the suddenly close quarters, so he opted for the next best thing.
Quicker than the sin could anticipate, its prey dove into its guard, and it felt the briefest instant of surprise before its vulnerable mask - its true, physical form - shattered against a solid head-butt. It screeched and flailed and clawed at the empty nothing where its face had been, but Dante did not see this. Forgoing the glowing red orbs - the sin's life essence - he ran on. He made it to the twenty-by-twenty foot landing, and the door leading back into the fountain room. He peered over the railing at the five story drop.... He had made the jump once before to access the elevating pedestal and the Death Sentence sword, but not with Sins at his back.
"Looks like the end," taunted Alastor. "Surely, this will be the proverbial straw that will break the devil's back, yes?"
A derisive snort was Dante's only reply. The red clad hunter boosted himself smoothly over the railing, taking the plunge as a scythe sped over the location he'd just vacated. The maddening cackle of the two remaining Sins reached a crescendo, and all at once, he saw them. Both non-spirits were suddenly below him, casually twirling their frightening arsenal, yet anxiously circling the area he would touch down. With Ivory alone he managed to send a wild spray of lead at both sins. They scattered for cover; not a single bullet finding its mark, yet the devils' keened in delight that their prey was almost among them. Never was it the hunter's intention to kill - though that would have been a plus - but it was to distract. Dante splashed down into dirty, ankle-deep water, allowing the force of the fall to bend his knees and bow his back. In a blink, he straightened himself, sprinting toward the lion embossed door....
"Behind!" came Alastor's warning.
Having regained their bearings a breath after the hunter's darting run the sins' gazes converged on their prey.
Let this work, was Dante's silent prayer.
He jammed the dying stone into a slot in the lion's jaws -
- The sins shrieked in victory as they let their weapons fly -
- and the Melancholy Soul flashed brilliantly, followed closely by the blessed sound of a retracting lock. Outward, swung the metal door, sending Dante headfirst through the portal. He actually felt the air part inches from the back of his skull as dual scythes vanished into the new wall ahead of him. Twisting around from his diving crouch, the red clad hunter let momentum slam his back to the wall as he brought both Ebony and Ivory to bear. He pumped each trigger three times into the lead sin, decimating its mask, the telltale whoosh of whirring blades telling him to lunge away....now!
Despite the death of its wielder both hellish scythes shot back through the stone wall where the hunter had been standing. No sooner did the projectiles clear the open portal did Dante dart back into view of the remaining Sin Scythe. It looked up at him from watching its kin's disintegrating form drift to the ground - - and screamed the most hideous, hate-filled sound ever to stain mortal memory.
"It's mutual," growled Dante. The Sin Scythe flew at him in a rage. It managed to cover a hair over two feet before it, too, joined its fellow in oblivion.